Highlands & Islands Enteprise hails ‘strong performance’
Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) said it put in a “strong performance” in the 2016/17 year despite “uncertain economic conditions”. The publicly-funded development agency1 said its investments, totalling around ?90m for the year, helped to create or retain 1,688 full time equivalent jobs in the region, with 169 of those jobs in areas deemed to be in “fragile areas”.
HIE estimates turnover from the businesses it invested in will increase by ?120.4m over the next three years and exports by ?79.5m. The development agency2 has reported highlights of its 2016/17 performance and the full details of its investment for the period will be outlined in the annual report, which will be published towards the end of the year.
HIE said it also supported 12 inward investment projects3 in the 2016/17 year and its Community Account Management programme is helping 47 communities develop their economies. Wave Energy Scotland, a subsidiary of HIE, also allocated ?12.4m in funding to 17 technology development projects in the year. The HIE-led Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project is also reported to have reached 155,000 premises last year, adding 1,400 premises through 13 projects supported by Community Broadband Scotland (CBS) with plans to deliver broadband to a total of 11,200 premises across Scotland within its current budget.
The agency said key infrastructure milestones achieved in the 2016/17 year included Inverness Campus, where three new buildings opened – An L?chran, Aurora House and the first student accommodation block. The Fairmile Building opened in Sandbank Business Park near Dunoon and the European Marine Science Park near Oban “secured a number of new tenants”. HIE said it also completed the 184 meter Dales Voe South quay in Shetland “to support the growth in decommissioning work” in the oil and gas sector and the installation of all four turbines in the MeyGen tidal energy project off the Caithness coast – projects HIE has also supported.
HIE works across the Highlands, Argyll, Moray and the Northern and Western Isles. The Scottish Land Fund, administered by HIE and Big Lottery on behalf of the Scottish Government, awarded more than ?4m to 54 projects in the 2016/17 year, 31 of which were in the Highlands and Islands. Projects supported by the Scottish Land Fund included acquisition and post-acquisition developments.
As well as direct Scottish Government funding, HIE secured money for Wave Energy Scotland, the Scottish Land Fund, Community Broadband Scotland, the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband project and EU funding in the form of regional development grants. The total amount of funding to HIE in the 2016/17 year was “approximately ?90 million” and all investments were made within this budget. The agency said some of its investments in the 2016/17 year also included commitments to invest made in previous years where the full investment is being drawn down over a number of years.
Commenting on the 2016/17 performance, HIE chair, Professor Lorne Crerar, said: “It has been another year of encouraging progress for the Highlands and Islands.
“The continued oil and gas downturn, pressures on public sector budgets and uncertainties around EU membership have presented many challenges for the region.
“More and more we are seeing these challenges being met with innovation, ambition, entrepreneurship and resilience by the region’s businesses, social enterprises and communities.
“A key part of HIE’s role is to foster those qualities and target investment in initiatives that stimulate and enable growth.
“I am delighted at the contribution the organisation has made over the past year and look forward to continuing to work with our partners, businesses and communities across the region and beyond to build on this in the years ahead.”
The Scottish Government abandoned plans to merge Scotland’s development agencies in March meaning HIE, Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland will continue to operate under their own leadership teams.